Chuck Norris Toughens Huckabee’s Softer Appeal

Scott Swenson

Mike Huckabee's Chuck Norris commercial has everyone buzzing, but its his meteoric rise in the polls and the softer side of his conservatism that make him an interesting candidate to watch.

The progressive in me opposes much of what Gov. Mike Huckabee stands for, but the political campaign geek in me swoons with admiration for his "dare to be different" campaign. The latest Huckabee triumph, one that may well cement an amazing victory for him in Iowa and upset an already anxious GOP base, is his Chuck Norris endorsement commercial, what the Salon Roadies call, his "humor offensive."

Before we get to the commercial, in a moment of shameless self-promotion I need to refer to a February 27,2007 blog post in which I wrote:

Gov. Mike Huckabee of Arkansas is the best bet to emerge from the pack of pretenders to claim the far right's hearts and minds, and thus pocketbooks and deflated ground troops post-2006. He is a Baptist Minister who is pro-life. But here's the rub: while believing that life begins at conception, he does not believe it ends at birth, and takes a strong stance (relatively speaking within the GOP) supporting maternal health, child care, improved health care and education programs.

If you're reading this on Rewire, you are not his target audience, so the fact you won't like the commercial is beside the point: the target audience for this ad LOVES IT! You want to get tough on immigration, guns, and taxes … Chuck Norris says Mike's your man. Think Iowa, John Deere manufacturing plant worker, hunter, farmer, conservative … throw in a beer and a football, and you've got not only the target audience for this ad, but somebody stubborn enough to make it to the caucus in six feet of snow and sub zero temperatures. And that's just the women! More importantly, you've got buzz on all the blogs, talk shows and in the diners, grain elevators and barber shops. Campaigns don't have to pay for buzz and Huckabee's campaign is producing more buzz than a honey factory right now.

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Like Chuck Norris' fist, pow, this ad is a hard right to squeaky clean wishy washy Romney, a gut punch to liberal Rudy, and has so much Hollywood sizzle that is makes people forget Thompson once knew how to act. Huckabee does it while making people smile and laugh. That's the secret to his "I'm conservative, I'm just not angry about it" campaign.

Add in his scathing attacks on Thompson's states-rights approach to abortion policy, in which Huckabee says "morals don't stop at state borders," and you wonder why the die-hard anti-abortion crowd nationally isn't jumping up and down and screaming "We like Mike!"

His unapologetic anti-abortion stance is combined with pro-child policies like pre- and post-natal care, early childhood development and wellness policies. His pro-education, arts and music agenda, continues to soften the hard edge even further, making for a potent combination of conservative principle and independent appeal if he could make a general election race. If he doesn't get the nomination, he's an almost certain Veep already.

If only the Democratic contenders were half as daring in their campaign tactics, and as clear and uncompromising on their progressive values as Mike Huckabee is in his conservatism.

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